The friendly and docile nature of bearded dragons makes them one of the most popular reptile pets among children and first time pet owners. Bearded dragons usually don’t mind being touched or handled by humans. Some beardies are even happy to sit on your shoulder or lap for hours. But can bearded dragons get aggressive? Are they dangerous?
Bearded dragons are known for their calm and submissive nature. While they can get aggressive or even bite you, they typically won’t do that unless you provoke them into acting violent. If (on rare occasions) a beardie bites you, it could trigger minor injuries or infection, but nothing serious.
If you are thinking of adopting a beardie but a little concerned about the safety of your family and kids, read this article to get a comprehensive answer to your question, “Are bearded dragons dangerous?” We’ll touch upon many related topics and sub-topics, such as whether bearded dragons are venomous, how harmful could be their bites, and how to prevent and treat beardie bites.
When do bearded dragons attack others?
Actually, bearded dragons don’t attack someone until they themselves feel threatened or endangered. Their aggressive behavior is in a way their self-defense mechanism. In the wild, bearded dragons are often hunted down, caught and eaten by larger predators like birds. These predators would often catch them from above. So if you do the same, i.e. try to catch them from above, they may mistake you as a predator, and consequently, attack you.
Why do bearded dragons bite?
Bearded dragons can bite you for many reasons. One reason is self-defense, and we already discussed it above. But there are several other reasons, such as,
If your beardie is hungry, they can bite you in the finger. And the reason is simple. After you’ll feed your bearded dragon by your hand for some days or weeks, your pet would start to associate you extending your finger towards them to you giving them foods. So when you leave them without food for hours or days, the hungry beardie may mistake your finger for foods and bite you in the finger.
Mistreatment by previous owners
If a bearded dragon was mistreated by its previous owners, it is more likely to act aggressively towards you in the beginning. The same happens with wild-caught beardies that never had a chance to interact with humans or experience human care.
If you don’t know how to properly pick up or hold a bearded dragon, you may unintentionally end up hurting them. If you hurt them (even if accidentally), they will probably hit you back with a bite.
Does a bearded dragon bite hurt?
Yes, it may hurt you a little; especially if you would be bitten by an adult beardie. Adults usually have sharp, jagged teeth. Adult beardies also have more power in their jaws than their younger counterparts have. So if an adult bearded dragon happens to bite you, it could result in some pain and even bleeding. However, if you compare it to the after-effects of a dog or cat bite, the pain from a beardie bite is negligible.
Do bearded dragons secrete venom when they bite?
Yes, after years of research, scientists found that bearded dragons produce and discharge a little venom when they bite someone. Thankfully, the venom they produce and secrete is not harmful to humans. At the most, the venom can trigger minor side effects, such as swelling, but nothing serious. In fact, scientists often use the same venom in the production of medicines for diabetes and heart diseases.
What are some signs that your beardie may try to bite you?
Bearded dragons won’t bite you unless they feel threatened. Thankfully, they’ll almost always give you some warning signs before biting. If you can read them properly, you should be able to avoid being bitten by your beardie. For instance, a beardie would often fluff its throat when it feels threatened. Another sign is that you’ll notice color change in their beard. Other common signs of aggression include head bobbing and producing a hissing sound.
What could go wrong when a beardie bites you?
While there’s seemingly no risk of serious health hazards from the mild venom produced by bearded dragons, you should be a little worried about one thing. Bearded dragons carry a bacterium called salmonella, which is transmitted to human blood could trigger serious bowel infection. So if your beardie bites you, make sure you clean and disinfect the nibbled area as soon as possible.
Can bearded dragons spread any other diseases to humans?
The short answer to this question is – No. Bearded dragons rarely spread diseases to humans. The only serious disease they can spread is intestine problems. However, biting is not the only way they can spread the disease to humans. The salmonella bacteria responsible for the disease are often found in their feces. So, even if a bearded dragon doesn’t bite you, it is possible for you to get the infection from their feces. That is exactly why you should wash your hands with soap after any direct skin contact with your beardie.
How to properly handle bearded dragons to avoid being bitten by them
Bearded dragons rarely bite, but you can reduce your risk of getting bitten by them even further, by knowing how to properly handle them. First of all, never pick up a beardie from above. The right way would be to hold them from one side. The idea is to make sure they can see you when you come to pick them up. Secondly, maintain a feeding schedule and never leave them hungry for a long time. Thirdly, watch out for the signs of aggressive behavior, as discussed above. Also, use hand gloves when holding them. If that’s not always possible, then at least make sure you wash your hands before holding them.
Can bearded dragons be harmful to babies?
It is absolutely possible to have a beardie around your baby, but you should be careful. First of all, don’t allow your baby to touch or play with the beardie. Babies usually have a weak immune system. So they are more susceptible than adults to bacterial diseases. Since bearded dragons often carry the bacteria salmonella, it is advisable to keep your baby away from them. Also, make sure you wash your hands well before you touch your baby, especially every time after handling your beardie.
Can bearded dragons be harmful to other pets like cats and dogs?
If you have other pets like cats and dogs, you can still adopt a bearded dragon. Unless your cat or dog has a weak immune system, they should not be affected by the salmonella bacteria that bearded dragons are known to carry. However, don’t expect your beardie to play with other pets. At most, your bearded dragon could be curious of them and may even like watching them play from a distance.
What should you do if a bearded dragon bites you?
If your beardie bites you, don’t panic. You’re not going to die from it. If it is a mild bite that doesn’t even break the skin, simply wash the bitten area and carry on with your normal activities. If the bite breaks your skin, you should apply a disinfectant to the wounded area.
What if the beardie hangs onto your body after the bite?
Sometimes, the beardie may cling to your skin after the bite. In situations like this, you should first support the beardie from underneath its body. For instance, rest the bearded dragon against a tower or any solid surface, so it doesn’t keep hanging in the air. Now gently try to prop open its mouth and remove it from your skin.
Precautions to take when keeping bearded dragons at home
Bearded dragons are safe pets, but you should still err on the side of caution and take the below steps when keeping them at home.
- Don’t eat or place your hands in your mouth after you’ve touched your beardie.
- Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water every time before and after handling your beardie.
- Disinfect any wounds from the handling of your bearded dragon as soon as possible. For serious cuts, consider seeing a doctor. You may have to take a tetanus shot, if didn’t receive one in the past five years.
- Keep the bearded dragon terrarium clean and remove the beardie’s feces as soon as possible.
- Make it a point to regularly test the beardie’s poop for bacterial infection or any signs of other germs.
It suffices to say that bearded dragons are safe pets and by no means dangerous to humans or other pets. However, as with handling any other pets, you should take some precautionary steps to make sure you don’t get hurt or fall ill from handling them.